Scouting Notes: 2022 NAB League Grand Final
SANDRINGHAM Dragons took out the 2022 NAB League premiership on Friday evening, downing the Dandenong Stingrays by 43 points at Ikon Park. With some of this year’s prime AFL Draft prospects taking the field, there was plenty to jot down in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
Having been an unexpected out last week due to Covid, Szybkowski could be excused for not quite getting going in his return game. The usually prolific inside midfielder started at the opening centre bounce, but ended up spending plenty of time both up forward and out on the wing. He had patches of form en route to collecting 15 disposals and five inside 50s, but fell short of inspiring his side back into the game.
The return of Dandenong’s premier top-agers freed up Simpson to showcase his versatility and smarts in the midfield-forward rotation. He was another who notched 15 touches, injecting creativity to the attacking half and manufacturing a couple of important scoring opportunities. After putting a second term snap wide, he split the big sticks halfway through the third quarter, before Sandringham kicked away again.
#4 Jaxon Binns
Arguably Dandenong’s top performer, Binns’ magnet was thrown around but that didn’t stop him impacting the game. His primary post was on the wing, were his running capacity saw him rack up many of his 18 disposals, before shifting forward and eventually into midfield. Binns may rue a couple of missed opportunities from tough spots inside attacking 50 during the second quarter, but could not be faulted for his effort in a well beaten side.
Frangalas was one who, like fellow bottom-ager Simpson, looked to inspire his side after being caught cold in the opening term. He started forward before being thrust into the midfield battle, where his power and attacking intent provided some positive moments. He ended up with a goal from 17 touches and promises to be one of the Stingrays’ key pieces next season.
One of Dandenong’s most consistent performers behind the ball, Emile-Brennan capped off his top-age campaign with another handy game out of defence. Made to absorb 56 Sandringham inside 50s, he had plenty of repelling to do and rebounded 11 times among his 17 touches, including 14 kicks. He ended up as one of the more productive Stingrays with spurts of run and sharp kicking.
#16 Henry Hustwaite
Another top-end prospect thrust back into Dandenong’s lineup, Hustwaite was a little quieter than usual. The midfielder didn’t show many effects of the ankle injury which kept him out for the last fortnight, and started on-ball before moving to defence. He was solid around the ball for 13 disposals and four tackles, but it was hard yakka denying Sandringham scores.
Dandenong coach Nick Cox said post-match he was in awe of what some of Sandringham’s players could do, and Ashcroft would be right atop that list. The leading draft prospect was simply unstoppable on Friday night, setting the tone early with his contested ball winning, and dominating later with his outside running capacity. He ended up with an incredible 39 disposals as the winning skipper and best player afield.
#4 Will Brown
The relative tall (192cm) among a dynamic mix of medium types in Sandringham’s forward line, Brown capped off a promising finals series with 19 disposals, seven marks and one goal in the decider. He had an impact both in the air and at ground level, competing hard and proving dextrous as an important focal point inside 50. One for next year.
Another strong bottom-aged performer, Roberts is a reliable two-way outlet in Sandringham’s stingy defence. He has made a habit of getting into good positions to intercept, and despite his light frame, cracked in hard when his name was called on Friday. His best weapons are shown on the attack though, and Roberts looked to thrust the Dragons forward with his 21 touches.
Not far behind Ashcroft in the best afield stakes, Mackenzie ran rampant in an effort which helped Sandringham dominate the midfield battle. His 26 polished disposals and four inside 50s provided the Dragons’ forwards with a wealth of opportunities, but Mackenzie also hit the scoreboard himself. A classy snap in the first quarter, and major in term three helped his side maintain scoring pressure, compounding the top-ager’s wonderful work in midfield.
#16 Harry Sheezel
A player built for the big stage, Sheezel’s many moments of magic helped spur Sandringham to its early dominance. His third-minute snap landed in the lap of James Creighton for the game’s first goal, and he capped off the first term with two majors of his own. A lovely inboard kick to Levi Ashcroft made for another assist in the second quarter, as Sheezel continued to break the back of Dandenong with creativity and two more majors after half time. With the slick and repeated delivery he received, he was bound to make an impact.
#21 Olli Hotton
While his ability to work in combination with Ashcroft and Mackenzie is admirable, Hotton produced some of his own individual brilliance on Friday. On several occasions, his breakaway speed was near-impossible to combat as he really came into his own in the second half, jetting away from the contest. He claimed 25 disposals and sunk a dagger into Dandenong’s chances on the eve of half time with a goal.